Who you calling a Sea Cow?

Who you calling a Sea Cow?

Who you calling a Sea Cow?

What started as a nice letter to the editor turned into a really fun assignment. I contacted Dr. Bonde in Sept. to say thanks for the nice words in the letter about one of my football photos. He replied saying I should come along with his group as they capture manatees. Consider it done.

A few months later, reporter Morgan Watkins and I found ourselves on a small “beach” that existed only because of the low tide early in the morning in Crystal River, Florida. The river area and springs are a popular destination for manatees to gather during the cold winter months. Making it easy for Dr. Bonde and his crew to capture the animals and collect the data they need.

I could explain what all happens but I’ll let the main man do the talking since he knows a thing or two about the subject.

Did you know there’s a specific way to pour water onto a manatee’s face? Yep. It needs to be dumped from the eyes so the water will flow down the rest of the face simulating the animal surfacing for a breath. So the dumping of the water tricks the manatee into taking a breath. Just splashing the face doesn’t always work. Pretty slick.

Team members sit with a manatee as it's taken out into the water to be released during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Dr. Robert Bonde cuts a wedge sample from the tail of a manatee during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Dr. Robert Bonde, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, helps record data during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Team members sit with a manatee before taking measurements during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Team members work to move a manatee to a boat to be released back into the water during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A sample piece of a manatee tail is seen on a razor blade during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. DNA and other information is gathered from the sample. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Team members roll a manatee on its side to get a measurement during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Ashley Barratclough , DVM with the UF Aquatic Animal Health Program, relays data she's hearing using a stethoscope to be recorded during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Dr. Robert Bonde cuts a wedge sample from the tail of a manatee during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A volunteer splashes water on the face of a manatee to simulate surfacing to get the animal to breath during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Dr. Robert Bonde takes a photo of the back of a manatee during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Barnacles are seen on the tail of a manatee during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A chart with data is seen during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Workers lie on the manatee to prevent him from trashing around while removing the net during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Workers position the manatee on shore to remove the net during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A manatee lies on the beach as workers prepare to move it farther on shore during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Ashley Barratclough, DVM with the UF Aquatic Animal Health Program sits with the head of manatee while it's being weighed during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A manatee is scrubbed clean to insert a tag while being measured during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A captured manatee thrashes around after being caught during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A captured manatee thrashes around after being caught during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A veterinarian draws blood from a manatee during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A crew unloads a manatee not the processing beach to be examined during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer The capture net is pulled on shore on the team's first attempt during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A crew points out manatees in the water during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer Dr. Robert Bonde, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, speaks to the crew before the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer A manatee looks around while being examined during the USGS manatee captures and health assessments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in Crystal River, FL. Oxygen is given to the animal each time it takes a breath. A team of scientists, veterinarians and volunteers spent two days capturing manatees to gather health data. This was the 10th year of the assessments. The program monitors the status of the regional population of Florida manatees. Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

We stayed on the “beach” until the tide came up and we were all ankle deep in water. After it was all said and done they allowed us the chance to go swim with the manatees. That’s been on my Florida bucket list since I found out you could actually do that. What I also found out is that I’m a horrible swimmer. Decked out in a rented wet suit, mask, snorkel and my GoPro I hopped off the boat and “swam” to the area where the other folks were hanging around. I thought they were all standing. Nope. I found out that I can only tread water for a few minutes before becoming exhausted. So I paddled myself back to the boat totally out of breath and saw zero aquatic wildlife. Lucky for me nobody else saw anything ether. Makes for a fun story I guess… but I had visions of taking an underwater selfie with a manatee. Maybe next year.

 

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